Dear Ms. Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education,
Accidentally we came across a letter from Brankica Petković, the program director of the Peace Institute (Slovenia). The letter was sent to the European institutions and the international community appealing them to react, because civil society and independent culture were allegedly attacked in Slovenia. The letter was also addressed to you, thus we are writing to you because we do not want you to be unilaterally informed about the situation in Slovenia.
Ms. Petković writes that non-governmental organizations in Slovenia are increasingly exposed to a hostile environment. This, of course, is far from the truth. NGOs in Slovenia are not persecuted nor forcefully shut down, they operate completely freely. At the beginning of the year, after the resignation of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) and before the new, centre-right government took office, these NGOs were among the main initiators of the protests, at which calls for “Death to Janša” were common (Janez Janša is the current Prime Minister). But as there is freedom of speech in Slovenia, everyone can think what they want about other people and organizations and say it freely, without being persecuted by anyone, especially those in power. However, it is true that non-governmental organizations, including the Peace Institute, have long been the target of critiques from the more conservative part of the Slovenian population. There are two reasons for this: the first is that NGOs are a large consumer of taxpayers’ money with the public knowing very little about this spending; the second reason is that almost all non-governmental organizations are ideologically left-wing and mostly only make sound when the right-wing or centre-right government is in power. So far, no government, regardless of its ideological affiliation, has wanted to harm them.
We cannot agree with the claim that the conservative SDS and Prime Minister Janez Janša are hostile to non-governmental organizations and to the cultural sector, the media or journalists. Firstly, let us say that 95 percent of the media (our estimation) is ideologically left-wing (some even far left-wing) and that 99 percent of the advertising money in Slovenia is collected by the ideologically left-wing media. This government is not hostile to them at all: no journalist has been persecuted, no journalist has been accused, no journalist has been imprisoned. If anyone was hostile to the media, it was the former centre-left government led by Marjan Šarec. In 2018, Šarec openly called on state-owned companies not to advertise in “hateful” media, and one of the undersigned (Jože Biščak, editor of the magazine Demokracija) was questioned by the police several times for his writing and headlines due to Šarec’s announcement. It is strange that the non-governmental organizations that are writing to you today to defend human rights and the freedom of the media did not defend the freedom of speech and expression in the past. Nowadays they are saying that under Janša’s government they are the target of government restrictive measures and hostile rhetoric. Which, of course, is not true. It is only true that these NGOs are not used to accepting criticism. The police has not questioned or brought in any journalists under this government.
These non-governmental organizations, which Ms. Petković writes about, recently staged a kind of an “artistic performance” in front of the Ministry of Culture, with the help of left-wing activists, involving school desks bearing names of Minister Vasko Simoniti and other members of the Ministry’s cabinet . The desks were covered in red paint, which was supposed to symbolize bloodshed. Among them was the name of Miro Petek, a former Večer journalist (now employed at the Ministry of Culture), who was beaten almost to death by mercenaries of left-wing tycoons two decades ago and still feels the health consequences today.
The ideological basis of the Slovenian non-governmental organizations consists of socialism and communism, which is more than unusual and unacceptable for the non-governmental sector. During the greatest crisis with COVID-19, under the patronage of the Peace Institute, the NGOs became the core of the co-called rebellion against the government. They do not respect any restrictions that are necessary, they incite disrespect for COVID-19 measures, resort to untruths, belittle professional measures and consider discreditation of the government more important than the health of people who are dying in our country. Despite all this, non-governmental organizations have not experienced what they would in any democratic country – they are not persecuted, even though in our opinion they should be held accountable. They are still heavily financed from the state treasury and their main source of income is the taxpayers’ money. However, this money does not belong to the political left nor the right, thus it would be expected that non-governmental organizations would treat it in the same non-ideological manner. But instead, NGOs mainly oppose to centre-right governments and bow and celebrate when the left-wing, communist parties are in power.
The writing of Brankica Petković from the Peace Institute is therefore, to put it mildly, misleading, based on untruths and introduces hysteria at the European level about the so-called repression against non-governmental organizations in Slovenia. In the past, the NGOs have often proved to be obscene extortionists of the state money, which is especially true for some environmental organizations, which had opposed a project until they received satisfaction from the state treasury. The Peace Institute, led by the author of the pamphlet sent to you, strives for many things before a “peace mission”. As the latest example of a “bloodshed performance” in front of the Ministry of Culture has illustrated, non-governmental organizations are also resorting to inciting violence, which is extremely dangerous and irresponsible. Their exponents are also among the main violent provocateurs at the illegal protests and are paid for such actions. Brankica Petković is thus in Europe spreading untruths and half-truths as well as manipulating. She is known in Slovenia as a left-wing extremist who never showed her gratitude to the state of Slovenia for providing her with favourable asylum and a comfortable life on taxpayers’ shoulders during the Balkan war. In this sense, she would be obliged to do only one thing – to tell the truth.
There are more lies, untruths and manipulative deceptions, but, Ms Sabine Verheyen, we will not waste your precious time. In the hope that you will take note of this letter as a second opinion on what is happening in Slovenia,
Joze Biščak, editor-in-chief of Democracija magazine and president of the Slovenian Association of Patriotic Journalists, and Vinko Vasle, longtime journalist and editor and former director of Radio Slovenia
*Note: The letter was sent today.